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Surprise Sleepwalkers Are Better at Automatic Walking

first_img Sorry, George A. Romero: Real-life zombies—er, sleepwalkers—actually do move quite fast.A study published in the journal Current Biology confirms that somnambulists exhibited increased automation in their movements.Using full-body motion capture and virtual reality feedback, researchers from England’s University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland discovered significant differences in how the brains of sleepwalkers and non-sleepwalkers control and perceive body movement.As each group completed a waking walking task—first without distraction, then while counting backwards in steps of seven (100 … 93 … 86 … 79 …)—their speed and accuracy of movement were recorded and analyzed.“We found that sleepwalkers continued to walk at the same speed, with the same precision as before, and were more aware of their movements than non-sleepwalkers,” EPFL neuroscientist Olaf Blanke said in a statement.Those participants who don’t suffer from the sleep disorder significantly slowed when having to count backwards (as one might expect one would).Their nighttime zombie counterparts, however, maintained a “similar walking velocity in both conditions,” supporting the supposed link between sleepwalking and automatic control of locomotion.Noctambulism, or sleepwalking, affects some 2 to 4 percent of adults, causing inadvertent activity—from small gestures to complex actions, like getting dressed, driving a car, or playing a musical instrument—while asleep.“Traditionally, little has been known about daytime markers of sleepwalking, mostly because of the difficulty in investigating this condition experimentally,” Oliver Kannape, lead author of the study and lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at UCLan, said.“Our research offers novel insight into this common sleep disorder,” he added, “and provides a clear scientific link between action monitoring, consciousness, and sleepwalking.”These findings may be used to aid diagnosis of sleepwalking while the subject is awake—rather than hooked up to machines and surveyed via a laboratory TV.“Advances in virtual reality technology have made this research possible and enabled us to investigate awake sleepwalkers in an innovative way and focus on movement automation and awareness,” Kannape said.“We are already exploring other applications of the use of this type of technology to help us uncover more about such complex human behaviors,” he continued. “Behaviors that cannot be investigated using a brain imaging approach.”Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target British Airways Tests VR Entertainment on Select First-Class Flights’Doctor Who’ Returns This Fall With Interactive VR Game last_img read more